“She took up so much space in the world- in his world -it was hard to imagine her being so slight. In his mind, she was made of stone.”
Darkness has fallen over Red London. Kell, with the help of Lila, friends, and enemies alike, must save the Maresh Empire before it bows to a new king. In the final installment of the Shades of Magic trilogy, A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab, Kell cannot face this darkness alone but must come to terms with himself and what it means to be an Antari.
*Review may contain spoilers*
I can’t remember the last time I’ve truly fangirled over a series. Like, maybe The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo since Lisbeth is a badass motherfucker, which was three years ago, so it was bound to happen again, eh?
But, before I dive into this, I’m going to be brutally honest. I don’t know why I like this series so much (after all, I find myself harshly criticizing it at every turn) and this one didn’t do the series final justice.
First off, the beginning half of the story could have fit in with A Gathering of Shadows, allowing that one to end on a higher note than just a cliffhanger that wouldn’t go anywhere.
Secondly, most of the plots were fluff.
The initial conflict is good with a poisonous fog, a dreamlike castle and the most annoying ‘King’ in existence (seriously, he’s a pain in the ass, exuding bad guy tropes left and right.) Thing is, Schwab introduces this then pushes it off to the side for sub plots and trying to justify character actions from the last two books.
I get it. More time with characters, (Alucard and Holland anyone?) to realize they aren’t the assholes we believed them to be is progressive and getting more of Rhy’s POV helped, but at the same time, didn’t.
In my AGOS review, I clearly stated I did not care for Alucard due to his actions toward Rhy, and Holland wasn’t that much of a threat, so why do I need flashbacks of these two? Holland’s, sure, I can see the point, but it could have been done in conversation with Kell or something, not dragged out in memories. And Alucard’s secret could have stayed secret until the mirror scene to make me realize, ‘oh, shit, I didn’t see that coming (even though I did because it’s pretty obvious)’ instead of learning about it nonchalantly to a character who doesn’t care.
Rhy lost his charm in this book. There were inklings throughout, but it’s like he and Kell switched places and Rhy faced the whole emo phase in this one. And there’s only so much interest I can muster in reading about him walking around and being attacked every other chapter.
Which brings me to the stupidest sub plot of all.
It’s so petty, useless, and took time away from the real plot. Had this threat been present, and I mean blatantly so, in AGOS it might have worked out better.
Throughout the series, I have to say I found Kell and Lila least frustrating in this one, though when they’re separated I still can’t handle them for long. Maybe it was due to their relationship finally being confirmed, or Lila becoming an equal to Kell, I don’t know, but it was nice.
That being said, Kell’s (sweet, idiotic, Kell) plotline suffered and not even from the main story. It was the one that wasn’t told, hinted at for sure, and dangled in front of readers then taken away for wanting it: his true parents and backstory.
I’d been psyching myself up from AGOS for this information. I really, I mean really, wanted to know the truth and came up with a convoluted plan he was the true heir to Black London, related to the royal family somehow, or something. But, alas, it was all for not.
AND I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY.
This also applies to Lila, not as transparently, but why did she end up in Grey London? What happened to her eye? Who is she? Who were her parents? I want to know!
But, instead, I’m forced to read about how Rhy’s essentially dead inside and the stupidity that is Cora, leading to a lack of character development that desperately wanted to shine through, but couldn’t with the circumstances.
The problem with series is authors become attached to their characters and don’t want to kill them (again, Holland anyone?) That’s great and all, but they overcompensate by having their characters stupidly run into harm’s way at every corner and almost die each time. And authors tend to gravitate toward one way of killing.
V.E. Schwab really likes to stab characters.
Lila, Kell, and Rhy, each suffer stabbing wounds at least once, and more than half of the other characters we do know die by that method as well. Which would mean something, if the main characters didn’t recover from their injuries like it was a simple paper cut. Kell and Rhy face more pain than any of the others, but holy gods above, there’s only so much stabbing that should happen in one book before going stale.
If there was one part I wanted more of it was Maris.
Her ship of trinkets and ability to stay young was so intriguing I was angry it hadn’t been introduced earlier. It’s very much like the black market town from AGOS, a great concept with so much potential, but given too little time. Had Schwab concentrated on what she really wanted to reveal and admire about this world I believe the series wouldn’t have suffered so much.
I have to say that ADSOM was my favorite of the series and would have done well as a standalone, but as a series, there was too much focus on the trivial for me to be fully satisfied.
But as I write that I can’t help but think I’m glad I have taken the journey with these characters. I was taken with the parallel London’s, the magic, and world building, which made me enjoy this series immensely. If anything Schwab definitely knows how to capture someone’s attention.
P.S.: My absolute favorite line was on page 388, spoken by Alucard, and made me die laughing for really stupid reasons 😀